As a child I was allowed to stay up late Friday nights to watch classic horror movies. I especially loved the monster movies produced by Universal Studios: Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, and the Mummy. These would air Friday nights at 11:30 on The Plenty Scary Movie, which came to us on cable from KTUL-TV, channel 8, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We eventually had our own local horror movies in Western Arkansas, complete with horror hosts Dr. Boo and Dummy Mummy.
Strange as it may sound, when I watch those old black-and-white horror movies today I feel rather cozy and secure--like a child lost in the world of make believe. Here are some fascinating facts about the Universal Monsters and the actors who portrayed them.
Bela Lugosi: Lon Chaney, Sr. had played both the Phantom of the Opera and Hunchback of Notre Dame in the silent era. He was to be Dracula, but he unexpectedly died before filming began. So Bela Lugosi got the job in 1931 and set the bar for interpreting the Count. His trademark accent has become a vampire staple.
It is said that Lugosi turned down the role of the Frankenstein monster. But he did go on to play Ygor in Son of Frankenstein and Ghost of Frankenstein. In 1941 Lugosi was a gypsy in The Wolfman. He finally portrayed the Frankenstein monster in Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943) and reprised his role as Dracula in Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).
Boris Karloff: He was the original Frankenstein monster in 1931 and in the first two sequels Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein. He did not reprise his role as the monster again until an episode of Route 66 in 1962. Karloff did appear as a mad scientist in House of Frankenstein (1944) and coached Glenn Strange through his performance as the monster. Karloff was also the Mummy in 1931.
Lon Chaney, Jr.: Chaney, Jr. was the only actor to play all four monsters. Between 1943 and 1948 he played the Wolfman in five movies. He was the Frankenstein monster in Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Dracula in Son of Dracula (1943), and the Mummy in three sequels from 1942-1946.
John Carradine: Having turned down the opportunity to be the first Frankenstein monster, Carradine was also considered to be Dracula, but the part went to Lugosi. Carradine did, however, go on to play Dracula in House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945).
Glenn Strange: Better known for his roles as Sam the Bartender on Gunsmoke and Butch Cavendish on the Lone Ranger, Strange was the Frankenstein monster in three movies: House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, and Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein.